ACRI Petitions the High Court of Justice Against the New Anti-Infiltration Law

By Hagai El-Ad, ACRI



On Tuesday, April 1, 2014, the same panel of nine High Court Justices that unanimously overturned a prior amendment to the Law to Prevent Infiltration will hear arguments on a petition to overturn a new version of the law that allows the indefinite detention of asylum seekers in the Holot “open” detention center.



On September 16, 2013, the High Court of Justice voided the previous Anti-Infiltration Law as unconstitutional, ruling that asylum seekers and people who cannot be deported must not be detained for prolonged periods, and that the use of detention as a means of deterring other asylum seekers from coming to Israel is improper. The court recognized that asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea are not deportable because of the situation in the countries from which they fled:


“Hard as the task with which Israel is forced to contend might be, we must remember that those who are already within our gates – are present among us. They are entitled to the right to freedom and right to dignity conferred by the Basic Laws to every person.” (Justice E. Arbel’s majority opinion).


The new amendment, which the state hastily legislated after the Court’s decision, contravenes the Court’s rulings and provides for the imprisonment of asylum seekers in Holot – the detention center dubbed an “open facility” by the state, established adjacent to the Saharonim Prison in the western Negev.


Some 1,500 asylum seekers are currently being detained indefinitely in Holot. Although they’re allowed to leave the facility for a number of hours between morning and afternoon count-off, and between afternoon and evening count-off, because of the facility’s remote location, the asylum-seekers are effectively confined to the Holot grounds. The purpose of the law is to break the asylum seekers’ spirit and coerce detainees into giving their “consent” to their removal so that the government can boast that it does not deport them, but rather simply assists them to leave “voluntarily.”


Attorney Oded Feller of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) is representing the petitioners – asylum seekers detained in Holot and several human rights organizations: “The fact that the Knesset and the government continue to single out a powerless and disadvantaged group as a scapegoat, blame it for society’s problems, vilify it, and beat its members down over and over with unconstitutional legislation requires the Court to intervene.”


Muatsim Ali, an asylum seeker from Darfur and one of the leaders of the refugee protest movement: “The purpose of the law and detaining us in Holot is to break us down and discourage us, to make us sign off on departure as if it were voluntary. We hear [Minister of the Interior] Gideon Saar boast about the past months’ statistics showing that thousands have left ‘voluntarily’ – some to Eritrea, most to Sudan, others to third countries.


Did Gideon Saar check on the fates of these ‘voluntary’ returnees? Does he know whether their freedom was ensured? If they’re even still alive? We are receiving dire news about the conditions of our brothers who grew desperate of the situation here and signed off on ‘voluntary departure.’ Our brothers remain refuges, at best continuing to flee and seek shelter, at worst imprisoned or even murdered.


This is the choice the government grants us: live out our lives in the desert with a roof over our heads, with water and bread – without the possibility of leaving, of working, of living like human beings. The government asks us to be animals, to be satisfied with protection and basic food needs. Our other choice is to leave Israel for an unknown fate, to return to the countries from which we fled, to regimes that persecuted us and will continue to persecute us.”


Additional Materials

Background information about the previous law and the Court’s September 2013 decision.

Further information about the new amendment to the law and the current petition.

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Categories: Democracy and Civil Liberties, Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

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